KAMPALA – A youth advocacy group has asked Parliament to prevail on Finance Minister Matia Kasaija over his reappointment of Justin Bagyenda to the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) Board of governors.
In a July 23 letter to Mr Abdu Katuntu, the chairman of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), the group, Youth Power Research Uganda, said the committee is mandated to monitor the operations of government agencies and that Mr Kasaija should be summoned to explain the circumstances under which he reappointed Bagyenda to FIA, the same agency that is investigating her over allegations of money laundering.
“We, therefore, appeal to COSASE to summon the Finance Ministry, which is the line Ministry, to explain the circumstances which led to the appointment of a person to the board of an organization which is supposed to investigate her, which can jeopardize fair findings of a comprehensive investigations report as a result of conflict of interest. We appeal to COSASE to summon Hon Kasaija to apologise to apologise to investors for obstructing justice.
It should be remembered that H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museven has often ridiculed government workers who suffocate government processes.”
In the petition, the youth also claim that the accumulation of wealth by Bagyenda led to the closure of three commercial banks, including Crane Bank.
This website has seen a letter dated May 7 in which Minister Kasaija wrote to the Speaker of Parliament, indicating that Bagyenda, who was in February sacked as director for supervision at Bank of Uganda (BoU), is being re-appointed to the board of FIA, which is currently investigating her following revelations of that she had stashed billions on bank accounts.
The Inspector General of Government (IGG) is also conducting a parallel investigation on Battens over allegations of illicit accumulation of wealth.
On Friday, Members of Parliament reacted with consternation to the re-appointment of Bagyenda to the FIA board and accused the Finance minister of double standards since she is under investigation by the same authority.
“I simply don’t get it. I don’t understand this impunity. The Appointments Committee must block it,” said Gerald Karuhanga, the Ntungamo Municipality MP.
A section of MPs have already drafted a motion that seeks to compel Parliament to set up a Select Committee to investigate the operationsof Bank of Uganda and Bagyenda’s role in the closure of Crane Bank and it is already on the Order Paper.
PML Daily could not immediately contact Minister Kasaija for a comment but independent newspaper Daily Monitor on Friday quoted him as saying that he made the appointment before IGG and FIA investigations began.
“When I re-appointed her, the issues of money laundering and others were not yet in the press, there is no way I could have re-appointed her with question marks surrounding her integrity,” Mr Kasaija is quoted as saying.
However, he is reminded that the investigation into Ms Bagyenda started as far back as March, to which he promised to crosscheck.
“I do not want to commit myself on something I am not sure of. I need to crosscheck tomorrow [today],”Mr Kasaija said.
The same youth advocacy group in May petitioned Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda over what it perceived as failure by FIA to investigate Bagyenda’s source of wealth.
The group, which claims to have an about 3,000 members, said since a whistleblower alerted FIA to investigate Bagyenda’s source of wealth in March, nothing has been done. FIA is the government agency mandated to monitor and investigate money laundering activities in the country.
Following March reports that Bagyenda had Shs19 billion on three different accounts, which sparked a public debate on how she accumulated such amount of money within six years, a whistle blower petitioned FIA, demanding that Bagyenda be investigated. Whereas FIA executive director Sydney Asubo in March told journalists that the authority had opened inquiries into the matter, no report is yet to be produced.
The Inspectorate of Government (IG) last month said it is still investigating Bagyenda over the way she accumulated wealth and dismissed reports that the government anti-corruption watch dog chickened out.
The IG accused some media houses of publishing falsehoods with claims that the inspectorate abandoned the investigations into how Bagyenda acquired multibillion properties and kept close to Shs20 billion in different banks.
“This is to inform you that the inspectorate is conducting investigations on allegations of the wealth of Justine Bagyenda and we complete these investigations, the report will be shared with the relevant authorities only. The information that is circulating that the inspectorate is not conducting the investigation is false,” the statement read.
It was reported that she had Shs19billion on three different accounts, which sparked a public debate on how she accumulated such amount of money within six years.
Barclays Bank Uganda and Diamond Trust Bank later apologized to her for exposing her accounts details in the media.
Leaked Mobile Money transactions from her MTN account showed Ms Bagyenda had transacted a whopping Shs499,428,906 million in three years.
MTN also apologised to Ms Bagyenda for the inconveniences, and assured the public that “all confidential customer information is handled and protected with the highest duty of care and integrity.